“Must be the baby brain”, people will tell a pregnant women in a slightly condescending tone if they happen to forget their keys/husband’s name/Sally in accounts’ coffee order. And mostly, women go along with it, even hamming up their ‘bad case of the baby brain’ if they’re having an off day (something that afflicts us all, baby or not). But now researchers at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City have claimed that baby brain might not exist.
Using an, admittedly small, sample of 21 mothers-to-be, the researchers set out a series of mental tests for the women to complete before and after their baby was due. They then put 21 women who were not pregnant through the same series.
The results? The pregnant women didn’t perform any worse in any of the tests than the non-pregnant women.
The clincher however was that all of the pregnant women thought that they performed much worse than they actually did.
“I was surprised,” psychology professor and lead author of the study, Professor Michael Larson told the Daily Mail, “at how strong the feeling was that they weren’t performing well. This feeling of ‘I really am doing badly right now’ exists despite the objective evidence that they aren’t.”
The thing is, it’s hard to think of a time when a woman wasn’t hard on herself or self deprecating about her success. Who hasn’t said ‘oh I only won because all of the other women probably forgot to enter’, or ‘my house is such a pigsty’ while simultaneously wrangling a full-time job, two children under 5 and a partner? Heck, even Amal Clooney, all-round superwoman, felt the need to say recently that she “couldn’t cook.”
As Celia Walden writes in The Telegraph, women so often list their failures – from dating to careers and most definitely motherhood, without cutting ourselves any of the slack we’d give rope loads to others. Being a self-deprecating woman means being likeable, the relatable klutz – not threatening, ultimately.
Perhaps though, instead of qualifying every success, and blaming “baby brain” (whether or not it really does exist) on fail, women should instead feel OK with being, well, quite OK at doing stuff. And that includes being a mother – not matter how ‘imperfect’ you are.
As Walden says of the new ‘evidence’ that baby brain might not exist,
“Now that we have hard scientific proof of our abilities – throughout pregnancy and motherhood – wouldn’t it be beneficial to the progeny who haven’t completely shrunk our grey matter to admit to some semblance of efficiency? We don’t have to say we’ve got it all sewn up (although I know a few women who quietly have), but who knows? There may just be the odd thing we’re not too bad at.”
Add it to the list of all the other things that you’re not too bad at, no exclaimers, playing up to cliches or jokes necessary.